The prevalence of neonatal herpes simplex virus infection compared with serious bacterial illness in hospitalized neonates

J Pediatr. 2008 Aug;153(2):164-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2008.02.031. Epub 2008 Apr 3.


Objective: To determine the prevalence of herpes simplex virus (HSV) relative to other viral infections and serious bacterial illnesses (SBIs) in hospitalized neonates admitted from a pediatric emergency department over a 5-year period.

Study design: Retrospective prevalence study of laboratory-confirmed viral infections and culture-proven SBIs, with electronic databases and medical record review.

Results: A total 5817 neonates were included: 8.4% with viral infection, 4.6% with SBIs. Of 960 neonates with documented fever, 17.2% had viral infections (0.3% HSV infection) and 14.2% had SBIs (1.3% bacterial meningitis). Of 204 neonates with fever and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pleocytosis, 1.0% had HSV infection and 5.4% had bacterial meningitis. Of 124 neonates with fever and mononuclear CSF pleocytosis, 1.6% had HSV and 0.8% had bacterial meningitis. Of 187 neonates with hypothermia, 1.1% had HSV infection presenting as a sepsis-like syndrome.

Conclusions: In febrile neonates admitted to the hospital from the emergency department, the prevalence of HSV infection was similar to that of bacterial meningitis, suggesting that HSV infection be considered in the differential diagnosis of neonatal fever, especially in the presence of mononuclear CSF pleocytosis. HSV infection should also be considered in neonates with hypothermia and a sepsis-like syndrome.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / diagnosis
  • Bacterial Infections / epidemiology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Herpes Simplex / diagnosis
  • Herpes Simplex / epidemiology*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies